Owning a puppy is a lot of fun, but it can also be a lot of work. It's not unusual for owners to start to wonder after a few weeks of bringing the pup home when they will start to mellow out. The answer has more to do with how your puppy lives and your interactions than an exact age range.
Puppy Maturity Vs. Puppy Calm Behavior
When you ask at what point a certain dog breed will mature, the first response generally refers to when they will physically mature into an adult dog. While this can have somewhat of an effect on their behavior, if a dog's needs aren't being met, you may not see much difference in their overall demeanor. In general, a puppy reaches physical maturity around these age ranges:
Toy and small breed dogs such as Chihuahuas can be considered adults around 12 months of age.
Medium-size breeds such as Border Collies reach maturity around 12 to 18 months of age.
Large-size breeds such as German Shepherd Dogs reach maturity around 15 to 24 months of age.
Giant breeds such as Great Danes can take up to 3 years to reach "adulthood."
Physical Maturity is Different from Mental Maturity
Not only does a dog's size impact their physical maturity, but their mental maturity level, as well. Typically, smaller dogs mature more quickly, not only physically but mentally as well, in comparison to larger dogs. This means a Chihuahua, for example, is more likely to get past their energetic puppy and teen years more quickly than a larger dog. A dog's "teen" stage generally occurs between 6 to 12 months of age for smaller dogs, but may be in the timeframe of 6 to 18 months for larger breeds.
Dog breed groups who are expected to remain hyper for longer periods of time include those who were originally bred to hunt, herd, or work, and those in the sporting group. Examples of these breeds include:
When Do Puppies Calm Down?
While some dog owners, particularly ones with more active, energetic breeds, would like to get a timeline that will tell them definitively when their hyper puppy will begin to calm down, unfortunately it's not that clear cut. Breeds that were bred to work and engage in a lot of physical and mental activity are more likely to be "hyper" for a long time, but how much and for how long depends on the individual dog and their environment. How you raise your dog and keep them occupied each day can have a significant effect on their "hyper" behavior.
As a general guideline, you can expect the following at various ages:
Birth to 10 Weeks
Puppies are still in their baby stage from birth to 10 weeks. Their energy as they approach 10 weeks will be endless as they explore new surroundings and increase in curiosity. They will spend most of the day playing, fighting, mouthing, and chewing.
10 to 16 Weeks
Puppies are still learning how to play and navigate the world around them at this age, but this is where they will begin to test their limits. They will start teething, and some of their excess energy will arise from this process.
4 to 6 Months
You may notice some increased levels of play fighting, whether with you or another puppy (or dog) at this age. This is how puppies learn where they stand in the household or hierarchy. This is also the stage where puppies will begin to display fear, so encouraging confidence, despite perhaps being overwhelmed with their high energy levels, is important.
6 to 12 Months
Your puppy may look like a full-grown adult dog at this point, but they are still very much in their puppy stage. At this age, you may see a bit of an increase in energy levels along with continued boundary testing. Continued training and continuous exercise is important to maintain energy levels and prevent destructive behavior.
1 to 2 Years
Your dog should begin to mellow out a bit as they approach the 1- to 2-year mark. Fortunately, by this point, your dog should be relatively consistent in following the rules even if they have not yet ran out of their boundless energy.
Why Are Some Dogs, Even Adults, Hyper?
According to Gail Fisher, dog trainer and behavior consultant and author of The Thinking Dog, how calm and mature a dog will be, "Depends on the size, the genetics, the breed, the amount of exercise they get, their diet, how active the family is, and definitely the training they've received." In her experience, it's common for a dog owner to ask, "My dog is a year-and-a-half old, shouldn't he be calm now?" but the answer is not that simple. "All of these environmental things in a dog's life really enter into it much more, and if a dog, especially an active breed like a herding or hunting dog, doesn't have an outlet for its energy, it will never calm down."
Dog Breeds and Maturity
While this is true for all dogs, there are definitely breeds like the aforementioned herding or hunting dogs that will act hyper well past the puppy stage. This is usually due to the dog living a lifestyle that is not suited to their purpose. For example, a Labrador Retriever or Golden Retriever was bred to hunt for hours, running into lakes and through forests, and work side by side with a human. Likewise, a Beagle was bred to use their nose to hunt for game and assist their human hunter. Asking these dogs to spend the prime of their young adult lives lying about the house or backyard all day without becoming bored, destructive or worse, is an unrealistic, but all too common, expectation.
How to Help Your Dog Calm Down
If you have a dog that is literally bouncing off the walls with energy and this is leading to undesirable behavior such as digging, barking, or destructive chewing, don't sit and wait for them to "grow up" and mature. If your dog is hyperactive, figure out what you need to do to find outlets for the energy. The outlets you choose should encourage physical and mental stimulation. The mental energy could involve training, puzzle toys, or other activities that encourage thinking skills. The physical energy is a combination of training, exercise and activities, including daily walks, playing fetch, agility, or another activity your dog enjoys.
Spaying or neutering may also help calm down or eliminate hormone-driven behavior, such as roaming. Dogs with excessive amounts of energy may tend to roam more, and further, than others. If you're experiencing this issue, spay or neuter may be an option worth discussing with your vet.
Have Appropriate Expectations
It's important to understand what your dog was originally bred for to develop an idea of what sort of exercise and enrichment they will need each day. If you have a mixed breed, you can look at the different breeds in the mix and use that to get an approximation. A small toy dog that was bred to be a companion animal, such as a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, will probably be quite happy with a small amount of exercise. If you own a Weimaraner and think a five-minute walk around the block once a day will be enough, you can't blame the dog when they start eating your house out of sheer boredom.
Taking your dog to a puppy socialization class is critical for their growth and development into a behaviorally healthy adult dog. Too often, dog owners stop after puppy class and as the puppy hits adolescence, they become more active and unruly. Bringing your dog to an obedience class during adolescence and adulthood can help to improve their manners, give them an outlet for their mind, and strengthen their bond with you.
Classes Are More Than Just Manners
One of the wonderful things about having a dog is the number of options if you want to continue to enjoy learning with your dog. You can find classes in trick dog training, dog agility, competitive obedience, scent work, and much more. You can even go on to compete in dog sports events, or just take classes for the fun of being out with your dog doing an engaging activity. If you can't find a class local to you, there are even titles you can earn at home watching videos and training together, such as a trick dog title. Scent work is another activity you can easily do at home on your own, and if you're handy, you can build some agility equipment and practice with your dog in your yard.
Your dog will need to have their daily exercise needs met and a schedule that is realistic based on their breed. If taking them outside for a jog isn't possible, for example, on a day with inclement weather, there are still ways you can exercise together. You can play fetch if you have enough space in your house, or work on obedience cues, or do scent work and train tricks. Mental learning can be just as exhausting as physical exertion. Other ways to exercise your dog physically if you may not be able to do a long run include playing fetch in the back yard, playing with interactive toys such as a flirt pole, and giving your dog the chance to play with other dogs.
"A good dog is a tired dog" is a phrase often repeated by dog trainers. Giving your dog lots of outlets can help keep them tired but happy. Instead of feeding out of a food bowl, use a food puzzle toy to make your dog work harder for their meal. Ask them to do things for you in order to get whatever they want, like having them sit and stay before going out for a walk, or sitting and offering their paw before getting a treat or a belly rub. Provide different types of chews as well, so your dog can exercise their jaws and a variety of toys for mental enrichment.
Give Your Dog a Job
Some dog owners enjoy training so much that they become overachievers. While this can lead to dog sports for some, others love training their dog to become a therapy dog and visiting hospitals, hospices, and children's care centers during their free time. If your dog has a personality suited for this type of work, this is an excellent way to give your dog an important job and expend their energy while helping others in need.
Another important facet to keeping a hyper dog from "acting out" is to model the behavior you want to see. If your dog is wired, and sees you becoming agitated and frenzied, their behavior is likely to get worse. On the other hand, if you remain calm and relaxed and keep your tone of voice even, you won't give them anything to react to. Taking deep breaths and talking calmly and gently to your dog while asking them to do some learned obedience cues, such as "Sit," can help to bring a dog's level of energy down in the moment.
When Do Dogs Calm Down?
It's hard to pinpoint an exact time for any breed of dog as to when they'll relax and become "mature adults." You can expect as they get older and approach their senior years that they will indeed start to slow down, but during their adolescent and adult years, a dog that does not receive an appropriate outlet for their energy can remain hyper well into adulthood. It's important to understand what your dog was originally bred for and make sure you provide a lifestyle where they get the right amount of mental and physical exercise each day in order to be a relaxed, happy adult canine pal.